Jason Day crossed off a major career milestone Sunday, earning his first win at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Day finished the tournament at 15 under, four shots ahead of Kevin Chappell.
The 28-year-old got off to a blistering start at The Players Championship. His opening-round 63 tied a course record, per Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press. He then carded a 66 in the second round. Those scores put Day in the driver's seat, and he merely needed to avoid any costly mistakes in the final two rounds in order to secure the title.
ESPN.com's Jason Sobel noted how great of a closer Day has been lately:
Much like his third-round performance, Day wasn't brilliant Sunday but did more than enough to maintain his place atop the leaderboard. His approach shot on the first hole, via the PGA Tour, sent a message to the rest of the field:
Day made the turn just two strokes ahead of Justin Thomas and Ken Duke, though, after going two over on the front nine. He immediately consolidated his position with birdies on Nos. 10 and 12, and from there, it was smooth sailing, especially with most of his challengers in the clubhouse as he headed to the final few holes. Day shut the door for good with a birdie on No. 16.
Although his performance came in a losing effort, Thomas deserves special mention for posting the lowest score of the round (65). He climbed 20 spots to tie for third place. Golf Channel shared how much his fortunes changed over the course of 18 holes:
GolfChannel.com's Ryan Lavner added Thomas made himself a lot richer with his surge up the leaderboard:
Thomas began strongly, opening his round with birdies on the first two holes. He got two more before making the turn. With three birdies over the final five holes, the 23-year-old gave himself a slight chance of forcing a playoff. The PGA Tour shared a replay of his final birdie:
Chappell had a similar final round; he closed well—an eagle and two birdies on the back nine—but never looked likely to finish higher than second.
He provided one of the best shots of the round, landing his tee shot on No. 17 a little over three feet from the hole:
Fox Sports' Shane Bacon doesn't think Chappell's work in this event will be in vain:
Ferguson provided another silver lining:
If he wasn't already, Day will almost certainly be the odds-on favorite for the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club starting June 16 as long as he stays healthy. He now has six top-10 finishes in 10 tournaments—including five in his last six—this year. Bet365 highlighted his impressive haul going back to last year:
Golf Channel's Matt Ginella was highly complimentary of Day's current run of form:
Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth were not major factors at The Players Championship. McIlroy's third-round 75 sealed his fate, while Spieth missed the cut altogether. Both stars will have a month to sort out their issues before the U.S. Open, but it may not matter if Day continues playing this well.
When Day is at his best, he's without equal right now—a status he confirmed Sunday at TPC Sawgrass.
"It's no coincidence he's No. 1 in the world," said Thomas of Sunday's winner, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "He drives it extremely far, extremely straight. He hits it to the moon, so he can access pins that most people can't. His short game is ridiculous. I think I've pretty much covered it all there when it comes to the golf."
Adam Scott, who finished tied for 12th, put Day in the same conversation as Tiger Woods, per the Guardian's Ewan Murray:
Jason's run is Tiger-esque. I try to imagine how good Tiger felt just playing, five years into his pro career having won 50 events. Imagine how you'd feel confidence-wise. Jason must be kind of feeling something like that at the moment and that's an incredibly nice way to walk out on the golf course. You can see it with Jason. I played with him one day this week in practice, you can see there's that calmness inside him, calm confidence, the way he's walking around. He's got that kind of unbeatable look about him.
Day admitted to being nervous in the buildup to the final round.
"All I could think about was, 'Don't choke. Everyone will be talking about this,'" he said, per the New York Post's Mark Cannizzaro. "Things like that go through your mind."
"It's such a big accomplishment for me in my career," Day said, per CBSSports.com's Kyle Porter. "To be able to finally win as No. 1 in the world and then to go wire-to-wire was very special. I'm glad I don't have to play the course again."